by Chris Bodenner
A reader writes:
I used to be a conservative Republican like you. I am now a conservative Democrat. I think our government is overbearing in many instances. In the case of marijuana, it's missing out on a large amount of tax revenue if the stuff were legalized and regulated like alcohol. Doing that would rid our prisons of many tokers and small time drug users, cut our prison and judicial costs significantly and increase our tax base. This would be especially true in California. Yet the insanity persists!
What really annoys me these days is at age 64 I think I have earned the right to smoke a joint once and a while without being exposed to the risks of our stupid drug laws. I ought to be able to go down to some local reputable dealer who pays taxes on the stuff and buy a joint once or twice a year, go back home and smoke it while I put a steak on the barbeque.
I'm a 27-year-old programmer who lives in the Bible Belt. By the time I got my first professional job at a small company, I'd been smoking marijuana for a year. I took great pains to hide this from my coworkers and parents because of the social stigmas attached to marijuana. But I eventually found out that over a third of my coworkers got high on a regular basis. They came from different educational systems, different sociopolitical backgrounds; conservatives, liberals, college graduates, middle-aged professionals, CEOs, programmers, accountants, and secretaries. Even, I discovered, my parents.
Every job I've worked in since, I've found it to be the same. Even in places that test for drugs. It's corporate America's little secret - a great, silent number of professionals indulge in marijuana from time to time. We aren't addicts. Most of us are responsible people.
I'm a Manhattan commercial lawyer in my mid-forties. Before my divorce, I lived in the suburbs, where I would get together weekly with two friends (a partner at one of the most highly respected "white shoe" law firms in the city and a C-level officer of a major corporation, both with young families) to toke covertly, rotating through our respective backyards. My pot-smoking friends in the city, like many Manhattanites, hail from all over the country. They include a physician, a professor, a 30-something personal chef, scrappy 50-something garment industry executives and scrappier traders. And a high school teacher.
While our lives are culturally distinct from those of "Real Americans," we are, for the most part, productive, moral and responsible people (and you'd be surprised at how many supported George W. Bush and spout Fox News nonsense).
What all my pot-partners have in common is their fear, even though we all know that having a few buds in Manhattan will not result in a criminal record for any of us. The professional price of a mere arrest would be too great. Few buy their own and they won't discuss their pot preference unless they know their interlocutor well. I buy my own and talk relatively freely about it, within reason.
My secret? I'm self-employed, and know a top-notch criminal lawyer, who started out as a public defender, and who instructed me on police practice and who can get me out of any pot-related scrape. He doesn't toke because of the symbolism - it's against the law. But he keeps a few buds in his closet, which he's saving for the day when pot becomes legal.